Aquinnah town clerk Carolyn Feltz moderated a special joint meeting of the board of selectmen and the board of assessors Tuesday evening where real estate agent Elaine Vanderhoop was appointed to the board of assessors.
The meeting took place to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Darren Leport. Town administrator Adam Wilson recused himself from the proceedings and sat in the audience. He recently defeated Michael Stutz for a seat on the board of assessors, and sought to avoid a conflict of interest in a matter pertinent to that board. Mr. Wilson has not yet joined the assessors board. Until his tenure as town administrator ends in July, he cannot lawfully serve on that board.
Underscoring protracted tensions between their respective boards, selectmen chairman Jim Newman and Mr. Stutz fell into argument over a controversial, pre-election blog before the meeting got underway. Mr. Newman accused Mr. Stutz of being the author the blog.
“Well, no, that’s false,” Mr. Stutz said. “That’s just not true. The author doesn’t even send it to me, so I get it from other people.”
“Seriously? That’s what lost you the election,” Mr. Newman replied.
Before opening the meeting, Ms. Feltz let it be known that given the situation, she was doing her duty, though reluctantly.
“Just so everybody knows, I’m doing this because I was asked to do this. I would not be doing this by choice,” said Ms. Feltz. Ms. Feltz went on to say she was chosen for the role because as town clerk, she is deemed a neutral party. She later added, “The sole purpose of this meeting is to fill a vacancy on the board of assessors.”
Selectman Juli Vanderhoop told those gathered that one of the candidates was her sister-in-law. Because of this, she said, she had consulted with the State Ethics Board and also filed a disclosure with the town. Ms. Feltz said no conflict existed, but that Ms. Vanderhoop’s precautions were nevertheless helpful to maintain community confidence. Ms. Feltz said that in-laws are exempt from the laws governing the matter. She also said that because members of Aquinnah’s board of assessors are unpaid, no conflict exists statutorily between Ms. Vanderhoop and an in-law she might vote to appoint.
In a roll-call vote, all the selectmen voted for Elaine Vanderhoop, and all the assessors voted for Ted Cammann. Jay F. Teise, also a candidate, got no votes. Elaine Vanderhoop won 3 to 2.
After the meeting adjourned, full quorums of each board continued to deliberate.
“The assessors would like to get together with you guys at some point and clear the air,” Mr. Stutz said.
“We would certainly like to do that,” Mr. Newman replied. “I think it actually would have been important before this vote,” assessor board member Elise LeBovit said. “I think that we haven’t been heard, and there were a lot of things said about our board and about us, and I think if we had had a chance to talk and hear each other, that would have cleared the air and made the vote — certainly would have made me feel better about the vote. Because I think we could have given reasons and had you understand where we’re coming from, and that wasn’t allowed in this meeting. So I don’t feel positive about the outcome, and I would have like to have felt positive about the outcome.”
“I appreciate what you’re saying,” Mr. Newman said, “but just think of the background and this secret politico group, Gay Head politico group …”
Ms. Feltz cut the dialogue short, and reminded the two boards they were no longer in session.